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by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

High School Football Players Aren't Well-Educated About Concussion

Young athletes may not understand possible consequences, study shows
SATURDAY, Nov. 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Despite recent efforts to create awareness about concussion among young athletes, a new study found that high school football players still don't know enough about the symptoms and consequences of this type of head injury.
More than 300,000 people are treated in emergency rooms every year for brain injuries related to sports, the researchers reported. And, it's estimated that up to 3.8 million concussions are sustained annually during sporting and recreational events. Half of these injuries involved football, according to the University of Florida researchers.
Yet, fewer than 50 percent of high school athletes are likely to report a concussion, the researchers noted. What's worse is that around one-quarter of college football players with symptoms of a concussion play anyway, the researchers said.
"Our results showed that high school football players did not have appropriate knowledge of concussion. Even with parents or guardians signing a consent form indicating they discussed concussion awareness with their child, nearly half of the athletes suggested they had not," study co-author Brady Tripp, from the University of Florida, said in a National Athletic Trainers' Association news release.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Athletic Training.
The findings are especially worrisome because young athletes are more vulnerable to the effects of a concussion, including post-concussion syndrome (persistent symptoms after a concussion) and second impact syndrome (when the brain swells rapidly and seriously after a repeat concussion), the researchers said.
To address some of these safety issues, the youth sports safety concussion bill was passed in 2012. As a result, the Florida High School Athletic Association implemented a new mandatory concussion consent form that all parents and student athletes are required to sign before participating in a sport. Athletes are also required to report any symptoms of a concussion to an athletic trainer, coach or parent, the researchers explained.
That same year, the researchers surveyed 334 varsity players from 11 Florida high schools. The athletes involved in the study were an average age of roughly 16 and had played about two years of high school football.
The high school football players completed a written questionnaire. They were asked about their knowledge of the symptoms and consequences of concussion. They were also asked how they learned about these injuries.
Most students knew that headache, dizziness and confusion were signs of a concussion. But, many didn't know that nausea, vomiting, neck pain, grogginess, difficulty concentrating and personality or behavioral changes were also symptoms, the study found.
The researchers noted that only a few of the athletes knew that a concussion could lead to brain hemorrhage, coma and death, if not properly treated.
Many students learned about concussion from their parents, at school or online, the researchers found. But, 25 percent of the athletes said they had no education about concussion at all, according to the study.
The researchers suggested that meetings, instructional videos and online programs could all help educate student athletes. However, the study's authors added that no matter how much education students receive, athletic directors must not assume students will always self-report if they experience concussion symptoms after sustaining a head injury.
"Athletic trainers and others that make up a school's sports medicine team should not assume programs available to coaches, parents and athletes will ensure education," Tripp said. "We recommend they work closely with athletes to reinforce this important information and potentially reduce the incidence of concussion and the acute, chronic or potentially fatal circumstances that can occur."
More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information for young athletes on concussion (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/high_school.html ).
SOURCE: National Athletic Trainers' Association, news release, October 27, 2014
by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Halloween at the ER Is No Treat

Doctors' groups share tips for safe pumpkin-carving, trick-or-treating
FRIDAY, Oct. 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating may seem like harmless fun, but Halloween injuries send many children to emergency rooms in the United States every year, experts say.
Out of eight holidays, Halloween had the fifth highest number of ER visits involving children aged 18 years and younger, according to 2007-2013 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
Nearly one in five Halloween injuries involved the head, noted the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. Lacerations were also common, the groups noted. The study showed that one-quarter of all hand and finger injuries were lacerations.
Children younger than 5 and kids between 10 and 14 sustained the greatest proportion of injuries.
"Costumes, candy and scary monsters tend to be top-of-mind for kids during Halloween, not falls and fractures," said Dr. John Gaffney, pediatric orthopedic surgeon and academy spokesman. "It's important for parents to establish clear boundaries with their kids and teach them safety tips to ensure they have a positive experience, rather than having to visit the emergency room."
Experts from both associations provided the following safety tips to parents and their children during Halloween:
For trick-or-treaters:
Make sure children walk on sidewalks. Remind them not to cut across people's yards or through their driveways. Buy or make flame-resistant costumes and make sure they fit properly. Masks, hats or other accessories that are too big can obstruct children's vision. Costumes that are too large can cause kids to trip and fall. Choose bright colors. Costumes with noticeable colors will ensure that kids can be seen in the dark. Add reflective tape to costumes and treat bags as an additional safety measure to make sure children are visible. Wear comfortable shoes. Regardless of the costumes children choose, their shoes should be sturdy, comfortable and slip-resistant to prevent falls. Remind children to avoid houses that are not well-lit. Use flashlights. Children and parents should carry flashlights so they can see properly and others can see them. Teach kids that pointing a flashlight above chest level could block the vision of other trick-or-treaters. Be wary of pets. Pets may be threatened when strangers approach their homes. Bring a cellphone. If there's an emergency, a cellphone will allow trick-or-treaters to call for help.
For pumpkin carvers:
Use a pumpkin carving kit, or knives designed for carving. These tools are less likely to get stuck in a pumpkin while carving. In the event of a pumpkin carving injury, elevate the injured body part above the heart and apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean towel. If bleeding doesn't stop after 15 minutes, or if the cut is very deep, go to the emergency room. Pumpkin carving always requires adult supervision. Rather than using a knife to carve, children can scoop out pumpkin seeds or decorate the pumpkin. Don't carve a pumpkin if you are under the influence of alcohol or another substance.
More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more Halloween health and safety tips (http://www.cdc.gov/family/halloween/ ).
SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, news release, Oct. 28, 2014
by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Almost 1 in 5 Americans Plagued by Constant Pain, Survey Suggests

Older people, women more likely to struggle on daily basis, researchers note
THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Almost one-fifth of Americans do daily battle with crippling, chronic pain, a large new survey reveals, with the elderly and women struggling the most.
The poll of roughly 35,000 American households provides the first snapshot of the pain landscape in the United States, the survey authors said.
The bottom line: Significant and debilitating pain that endures for three months or more is now a common feature in the lives of an estimated 39 million Americans.
"I wasn't particularly surprised by our findings," said study author Jae Kennedy, a professor of health policy and administration at Washington State University in Spokane. "But I found it sobering that so many American adults are grappling with persistent pain."
"Going forward, it will be important to track changes in rates of persistent pain within the U.S., and compare these rates to other countries with different health care systems," Kennedy said.
Kennedy and his colleagues report their findings in the October issue of the Journal of Pain.
To get a sense of the scale of the Americans' experience with pain, the study authors analyzed responses to a 2010 National Center for Health Statistics survey.
Those who said they had experienced serious continual pain during the prior three months were the focus of the poll, rather than participants who said they had experienced short-term pain or pain that was intermittent or moderate in nature.
The result: Overall, 19 percent of the adults polled were deemed to have experienced "chronic" and severe daily pain.
That grouping did not, for the most part, include adults who said they struggled with arthritis or back and joint pain, as those people tended to say their pain was not constant and persistent, the study authors noted.
That said, the chronic pain figure exceeded 19 percent among specific groups of respondents, including those between the ages of 60 and 69, women, those who said their health was fair or poor, those who were obese or overweight, and those who had been hospitalized in the prior year.
And among those with chronic pain, more than two-thirds said their pain was "constantly present," while more than half said their pain was at times "unbearable and excruciating."
That level of physical pain can prompt psychic pain, Kennedy noted.
"Being in pain is depressing," he said in a statement. "Being in pain all the time is tiring. Being in pain all the time is anxiety-provoking. So it's plausible that pain is triggering other kinds of more psychological distress."
Kennedy suggested that for those experiencing chronic, crippling pain there are a variety of potential interventions, including physical and occupational therapy, exercise, dietary changes, weight loss, massage and psychotherapy, alongside alternative interventions such as acupuncture, yoga and chiropractic services.
Medicines, including narcotic painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine, can also be helpful, but only if long-term use is avoided, Kennedy said.
"We are clearly overusing opioids [narcotics]," he noted. "The U.S. consumes about 80 percent of the world's opioid supply, and 99 percent of the hydrocodone supply. These medications are effective in the short term, [such as] for managing postoperative pain, but long-term use often leads to dependency or addiction."
Bob Twillman, director of policy and advocacy for the American Academy of Pain Management, agreed, noting that the kind of crippling pain that can make it impossible for people to work tends to have many different sources, not all of which are best addressed with narcotic painkillers.
"If it was just one thing causing pain, we might have one treatment that would work for most people," he said. "But, given that we have millions of people with dozens, or perhaps even hundreds of causes for their pain, we can't use a cookie-cutter approach to treating pain."
And that means, Twillman added, that medications may not always be the best answer for every patient.
"Those medications are wonderful when they work, but on average, they only relieve about a third or less of the chronic pain people experience, and may be completely ineffective in treating some kinds of chronic pain," Twillman said. Also, the drugs don't do anything to tackle the emotional, mental and behavioral aspects of pain management, he added.
"If we're going to do the best job possible of caring for people with chronic pain, we need to look at all of these aspects of the pain experience, and try to address them all," Twillman said. "When we are able to do that, we'll be successful in addressing the chronic pain that millions of Americans live with every day."
More information
Visit the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic_pain/chronic_pain.htm#What_is ) for more on chronic pain.
SOURCES: Jae Kennedy, Ph.D., professor, health policy and administration, Washington State University, Spokane; Bob Twillman, Ph.D., FAPM, director, policy and advocacy, American Academy of Pain Management; October 2014 Journal of Pain
by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Child's Appendix More Likely to Rupture in Regions Short of Surgeons

Transfer to another hospital delays treatment, researchers say
FRIDAY, Oct. 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children and teens with poor access to general surgeons are at increased risk of suffering a ruptured appendix, and the risk is particularly high among young children, a new study finds.
If an infected appendix isn't removed quickly enough, it can burst or rupture, leading to a serious, sometimes fatal infection, according to background information from the study.
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 7,000 children younger than 18 who were diagnosed with appendicitis at surgical centers in North Carolina between 2007 and 2009. Nearly one in four of the youngsters later suffered a ruptured appendix.
The risk of ruptured appendix was 1.7 times higher among patients who were transferred to another hospital, and 1.4 times higher among those who came from areas with a severe shortage of general surgeons, fewer than three for every 100,000 people.
Young appendicitis patients with limited access to general surgeons likely have to wait longer to be transferred and start receiving care, according to the authors of the study presented this week at an American College of Surgeons meeting in San Francisco.
Compared to children older than 12, the risk of ruptured appendix was 5.6 times higher among kids age 5 and younger, and 1.3 times higher for those ages 5 to 12.
"Transfers from other hospitals tend to be younger children. Rural surgeons may feel comfortable treating a 12- or 13-year-old, but if the child is 1 month or 5 years old, they will usually be transferred," study lead author Dr. Michael Phillips, a surgery resident at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a College of Surgeons news release.
Such transfers can take a couple of hours, he noted.
Another reason why younger children with appendicitis are more likely to suffer a ruptured appendix is that they can't explain what's wrong with them, which could delay diagnosis, according to the release.
"In some cases, the child will have signs of appendicitis, like eating less and a fever, but parents will think it's something else. Then they send the child to a pediatrician, wait for lab tests to come back, then have an imaging study. This process can take a while," Phillips said.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
More information
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about appendicitis (http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/appendicitis/index.aspx ).
SOURCE: American College of Surgeons, news release, Oct. 28, 2014
by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Generic Drugs May Help Breast Cancer Patients Stick to Therapy

Cost a key factor for women to maintain hormone treatment regimen, researchers report
FRIDAY, Oct. 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Access to generic hormone therapy medicines improves the chances that breast cancer patients will stick with their drug treatment, a new study found.
"We know that hormone therapy for women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer can reduce recurrence by up to 50 percent," study leader Dr. Dawn Hershman, an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said in a hospital news release.
"However, work by our group and others has shown that a substantial number of women discontinue treatment before the recommended five years or do not take the prescribed dose," she added.
"Our findings suggest that more effort should be made to reduce out-of-pocket costs for these potentially life-saving medications. This is especially important given the rapid increase of expensive oral cancer therapies," explained Hershman, who is also an associate professor of medicine at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The study included more than 5,500 women. All were 50 years of age or older. And, all of the women had early stage breast cancer that was hormone receptor-positive. That means the cancer is fueled by the hormone estrogen, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
The women in the study all had surgery to remove their breast cancer. After surgery, they were prescribed drugs called aromatase inhibitors, a common type of therapy for hormone receptor-positive cancers. Aromatase inhibitors work by blocking the conversion of other hormones into estrogen. In women who've gone through menopause, these drugs can lower the amount of estrogen in the body, according to the ACS.
Even though hormone therapy significantly reduces the risk of disease recurrence in patients with this type of breast cancer, many women don't take their medications as directed, the researchers said.
The patients in the study were followed for two years. The investigators found that women who took generic aromatase inhibitors were 50 percent more likely to adhere to their drug therapy than those who took brand-name aromatase inhibitors, which are much more expensive.
"This is increasingly important because we are starting to learn that even longer therapy -- up to 10 years -- may be beneficial. It's critical that we understand why people do not take their medication and what we can do to improve adherence," concluded Hershman, leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.
Several factors may contribute to breast cancer patients' failure to adhere to drug therapy, the study authors suggested.
"Cost is not the only reason. But it can intensify other factors such as side effects. Up to 40 percent of women taking [aromatase inhibitors] experience joint stiffness. If you add a high co-payment to the mix, that's often enough to make them discontinue therapy," Hershman said in the news release.
The study was published online Oct. 27 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
More information
The American Cancer Society has more about aromatase inhibitors (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/moreinformation/medicinestoreducebreastcancer/medicines-to-reduce-breast-cancer-risk-aromatase-inhibitors ).
SOURCE: Columbia University Medical Center, news release, Oct. 27, 2014
by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Health Highlights: Oct. 31, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Ebola Concerns Overshadow Medical Meeting in New Orleans
Ebola fears have triggered a conflict between Louisiana officials and a medical group holding its annual meeting in the state.
The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is meeting in New Orleans, starting this weekend, and thousands of doctors plan to attend. In a letter to the society, state officials ordered doctors to stay away if they have been to West African countries with Ebola outbreaks or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days, the Associated Press reported.
The letter was sent Wednesday and signed by Kathy Kliebert, secretary of the state's Department of Health and Hospitals, and Kevin Davis, director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
The state's stance means that a number of doctors, including some from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, may not be able to attend or present studies at the meeting, the AP reported.
The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene does not agree with the state's position and noted that it goes beyond CDC guidelines for Ebola. The order is "unfortunate" and "a pretty tough message to send out, particularly to our international colleagues," according to the group's president, Dr. Alan Magill.
Dr. John Schieffelin, an infectious-disease expert at Tulane University in New Orleans, called the state's order an overreaction to supposed risk and "comes off as a little xenophobic," the AP reported.
In a study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, Schieffelin gave the most detailed information yet on symptoms and treatment of Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. Schieffelin returned from the West African country in August and plans to attend the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting.
State officials plan to send a similar letter to the American Public Health Association, which has scheduled its annual meeting in New Orleans Nov. 15-19.
Gerber Sued Over Baby Formula Allergy Claims
Baby food maker Gerber is being sued for claiming that its Good Start Gentle formula can prevent or reduce allergies in children, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday.
The company's claim is false and it misled consumers by suggesting the formula was the first to meet government approval for reducing allergy risk, said an FTC complaint filed in federal court, the Associated Press reported.
The agency wants Gerber Products Co. -- also doing business as Nestle Infant Nutrition -- to remove the claim from formula labels and advertisements and may ask the court to force the company to issue consumer refunds.
"Parents trusted Gerber to tell the truth about the health benefits of its formula, and the company's ads failed to live up to that trust," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, the AP reported.
"Gerber didn't have evidence to back up its claim that Good Start Gentle formula reduces the risk of babies developing their parents' allergies," Rich added.
Gerber says it didn't violate the law, the AP reported.
by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Is Tau the 'How' Behind Alzheimer's?

When this protein malfunctions, brain cells die, say researchers working with mice
FRIDAY, Oct. 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Malfunction of a key brain protein called tau is the likely culprit behind Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, a new study in mice concludes.
Neurons -- highly specialized nerve cells in the brain -- appear to die when tau malfunctions and fails to clear the cells of unwanted and toxic proteins, explained Charbel Moussa, head of the Laboratory for Dementia and Parkinsonism at Georgetown University School of Medicine, in Washington, D.C.
This means drugs that replace the function of tau in these brain cells are likely to slow the progression of Alzheimer's, he said.
"A strategy like this will give us hope that we can delay or stabilize the disease progression," Moussa said.
Tau has long been a prime suspect in the search for the cause of Alzheimer's disease. The brains of Alzheimer's patients wind up clogged with twisted protein threads made of tau, particularly in regions important to memory.
But researchers have been at a loss to explain why tau might cause Alzheimer's, and whether the tangles of tau are more important than another hallmark of Alzheimer's, plaques made of a protein called amyloid beta that fill the spaces between the brain's nerve cells.
Moussa said his experiments with mice have shown that tau works to keep neurons naturally free of amyloid beta and other toxic proteins.
When tau malfunctions, the neurons begin to spit amyloid beta out into the space between the brain cells, where the protein sticks together and forms plaques, he said.
"When tau does not function, the cell cannot remove the garbage," Moussa said. The result is cell death, he explained.
Tests on the brain cells of mice revealed that removing all tau impaired the neurons' ability to clear out amyloid beta, according to findings published Oct. 31 in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration. But if researchers reintroduced tau into brain cells, the neurons were better able to remove accumulated amyloid beta from the cells.
Moussa said his study suggests the remaining amyloid beta inside the neuron destroys the cells, not the plaques that build up outside. The mouse experiments also showed that fewer plaques accumulate outside the cell when tau is functioning.
Malfunctioning tau can occur as part of the aging process or due to genetic changes. As people grow older, some tau can malfunction while enough normal tau remains to help clear the garbage and keep neurons alive. "That explains the confusing clinical observations of older people who have plaque buildup, but no dementia," Moussa explained in a Georgetown University news release.
In this study, Moussa also explored the possible use of a cancer drug called nilotinib to force neurons to keep themselves free of garbage, with the help of some remaining functional tau.
"This drug can work if there is a higher percentage of good to bad tau in the cell," added Moussa, whose work was funded in part by a grant from Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical company.
Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association, said Moussa's findings are interesting but not conclusive.
"They're saying that tau may have an earlier role than we currently know. That's as far as I would go," Snyder said. "We still don't know how all the pieces come together."
Snyder said new imaging technology that allows doctors to track tau buildup in a person's brain over time may help solve this question in the future.
Also, experts say, results of animal experiments don't necessarily apply to humans.
But Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, said the new study adds to the growing evidence that "the role of tau is fundamental in the disease process."
"Developing therapeutics for tau is a high priority," Petersen said. "Not easy, not simple, but it could be very fruitful."
More information
For more on Alzheimer's disease, visit the U.S. National Institute on Aging (http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/part-2-what-happens-brain-ad/hallmarks-ad ).
SOURCES: Charbel Moussa, Ph.D., assistant professor and head, Laboratory for Dementia and Parkinsonism, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, D.C.; Heather Snyder, Ph.D., director, medical and scientific operations, Alzheimer's Association; Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., director, Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Rochester, Minn.; Georgetown University, news release, Oct. 31, 2014; Oct. 31, 2014, Molecular Neurodegeneration
by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Kids: An Rx for Menopause's Hot Flashes?

'Bonding' hormone may play a role in study's findings, researchers say
FRIDAY, Oct. 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Women who live with young children may be less likely to suffer hot flashes after going through surgical menopause, a new study suggests.
The finding, published recently in the journal Menopause, followed a small group of women who had their ovaries removed because they were at high genetic risk of ovarian cancer. Most of the women had already gone through menopause, but 48 had not -- which meant the surgery caused an abrupt menopause.
In that group of women, those with a young child at home tended to have less severe hot flashes and night sweats, according to the study.
"This is a very interesting study that raises some important questions," said Dr. Jill Rabin, an obstetrician/gynecologist who was not involved in the research.
One of those questions is whether the hormone oxytocin offers some protection from hot flashes, according to Rabin, co-chief of ambulatory care at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
Oxytocin is commonly known as the "bonding hormone," because it's released during certain types of human connection -- including when mothers breast-feed or care for young children.
But, like other hormones, oxytocin is "not just a one-job molecule," said study co-author Virginia Vitzthum, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University, in Bloomington.
She explained that oxytocin also helps regulate the body's core temperature -- which, in theory, could be one reason why the women in the study who lived with children tended to have fewer hot flashes.
But this study doesn't prove oxytocin deserves the credit.
"It just hints at that," Vitzthum said.
Women who live with young kids might have other factors in their lives that help protect against more severe hot flashes, according to Vitzthum.
To name a few, differences in exercise, diet, job activities or stress levels could be at work, she said. And her team was not able to account for racial or ethnic differences, since most women in the study were white.
Vitzthum said the idea for the study stemmed, in part, from research on cultural differences in menopausal symptoms.
Women in some non-industrialized societies report far fewer hot flashes, versus those in industrialized countries. There could be any number of reasons, but one possibility is that family structure plays a role, Vitzthum said.
"Inter-generational living is very common in those cultures," she said. Grandmothers or aunts are often under the same roof as young children, and share the responsibility for caring for them.
In the United States, Vitzthum noted, the "nuclear family" is now the norm. "But certainly through most of human history, the extended family was very common," she said.
According to Vitzthum, it's possible that humans evolved so that it's not only children who benefit from those family relationships -- but older family members, as well.
The current study included 117 women, all from the Seattle area, who had surgery to remove their ovaries because they carried gene mutations that raised their cancer risk. Sixty-nine women had already gone through menopause, while the remainder had not.
About half of the women had a child at home -- either their own or a grandchild.
In general, the study found that women who were pre-menopausal before surgery tended to report less severe hot flashes after surgery if they lived with a child younger than 13.
Rabin agreed that oxytocin is only a theoretical explanation for the finding: "One issue is that [the researchers] didn't actually measure the women's oxytocin levels," she said.
But Rabin said the possible connection is worth further research -- including studies that follow women as they go through natural menopause.
According to Vitzthum, that research could take many directions. "For example, we don't think the young child would have to be genetically related to you," she said.
It's possible, she speculated, that being around young kids -- through volunteering, or helping to care for friends' children or grandchildren -- could help soothe hot flashes.
Another question is whether other types of relationships could affect hot flash severity, Vitzthum said.
Physical contact, including hugs, helps release oxytocin. And in some of those cultures where hot flashes are less common, older women are not shy about physical contact with each other, Vitzthum said.
"They hug each other, lean on each other, put a head on someone else's shoulder," she noted. Whether that helps cool hot flashes is unknown -- but, Vitzthum said, "cuddling is just good."
More information
Learn more about menopause symptoms and treatments from the U.S. Office on Women's Health (http://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/symptom-relief-treatment/ ).
SOURCES: Virginia Vitzthum, Ph.D., professor, anthropology, Indiana University Bloomington; Jill Rabin, M.D., co-chief, ambulatory care, women's health programs-PCAP services, North Shore-LIJ Health System, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Sept. 15, 2014,Menopause, online
by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Make the Most of This Weekend's Time Change

Sleep expert offers tips on how to adjust as clocks fall back an hour on Sunday
FRIDAY, Oct. 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A few simple steps can help make this weekend's time change easier to cope with, a sleep expert says.
"Adjusting to the end of Daylight Saving Time in the fall is a bit easier than handling the time change in the spring. The main reason is because we gain an hour of sleep for the fall time change," Dr. Praveen Rudraraju, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., said in a hospital news release.
The many Americans who are sleep-deprived should go to bed at their regular time so they can take advantage of the hour of sleep they'll gain when the clocks slide back one hour in the wee hours of Sunday morning, he said.
The first few days after the time change can be difficult because the sun sets close to 5 p.m., which means it will be dark when many people leave work. Try to take advantage of the early sun in the morning to boost your mood, Rudraraju suggested.
Those most likely to have difficulty adjusting to the time change are short sleepers and early risers, because they're less likely to be able to take advantage of the extra hour of sleep this weekend.
If you're one of these people, delay your bed time by an hour so that you'll wake up at your regular time, Rudraraju advised.
Some people make take up to one week to get used to the time change, he noted.
If you have a young child who wakes up at 6 a.m., try to put the youngster to bed 15 minutes later each day starting a few days before the time change. If you don't make this gradual adjustment, the child is likely to wake up at 5 a.m. when the clock changes, Rudraraju noted.
More information
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about sleep (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm ).
SOURCE: Northern Westchester Hospital, news release, Oct. 29, 2014
by Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Sleep Apnea May Steal Some of Your Memory: Study

Remembering everyday things was harder for those whose slumber was disrupted during dreaming cycle
FRIDAY, Oct. 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep apnea may make it hard for you to remember simple things, such as where you parked your car or left your house keys, a small study suggests.
Tests on 18 people with severe sleep apnea showed that this ability -- called spatial memory -- was impaired when sleep apnea disrupted rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, even when other stages of sleep weren't affected. REM sleep is the deepest level of sleep, during which dreams typically occur.
"We've shown for the first time that sleep apnea, an increasingly common medical condition, might negatively impact formation of certain memories, even when the apnea is limited to REM sleep," study leader Dr. Andrew Varga, a clinical instructor of medicine in the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said in an NYU news release.
"Our findings suggest memory loss might be an additional symptom for clinicians to screen for in their patients with sleep apnea," added Varga, who is also an attending physician in NYU's Sleep Disorders Center.
While the study found an association between sleep apnea and impaired memory, it did not prove a direct cause-and-effect link between the two.
The study was published online Oct. 29 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
People with sleep apnea experience periods of disrupted breathing during the night. Sleep apnea can occur at any stage of sleep, but is often worst during REM sleep. Some people have sleep apnea only during REM sleep, the researchers noted.
Sleep apnea affects 4 percent of Americans overall, and as many as one in four middle-aged men.
More information
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about sleep apnea (http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea.printerview.all.html ).
SOURCE: NYU Langone Medical Center, news release, Oct. 29, 2014

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